Catnip Confusion

Why does my catnip (nepeta cataria) smell like low-grade lemon balm? To add to my confusion, they look nearly alike.

I’ve discovered that the various catnip plants growing around my yard smell different.

For example, the potted plants I picked up at a nursery have a faint skunk-like odor, which intensifies when dried.

Store bought catnip smells faintly skunk-like

On the other hand, seed grown catnip have a faint minty-citrusy scent. I’ve observed that the minty scent intensifies in catnip grown in-ground versus container-grown catnip. Or maybe I’m just imagining it.

Catnip started in a grow bag

I had forgotten I had dumped some potting soil laced with catnip seed in my flower bed and the seedlings emerged between the perennials, well protected by its taller neighbors. Catnip is supposedly a mint relative, but I can’t attest to its invasiveness. I am waiting to see if this colony will survive the winter and spread during the warm seasons.

A side-by-side comparison displays how catnip can be easily confused for lemon balm: look for the fine hairs on catnip leaves and the golden hue on lemon balm leaves. Here’s an article enumerating the differences.

Regardless of the smell, my cats still react the same way to the skunk-odor catnip and the mint-scented catnip. Here’s Conan going after the mint-scented variety.

It’s not difficult for the cats to distinguish between catnip and lemon balm. The cats have a habit of destroying catnip plants whenever they are in reach, so identification is easy usually in the aftermath. As a result, I have elevated the potted catnip plants and take cuttings to hand out to the catkids.

A takeaway from all this is to label your seeds and cuttings!

Vegetable Guides

I was always an ornamental plant grower and landscaper for all the time I’ve tended gardens in Texas. Somehow I’ve always felt that growing vegetables in the harsh climate required too much effort and resources for a family of two trying to hold down full time jobs and paying the bills. Any vegetable that I’ve dropped into the ground usually involved some kind of plant that could endure the grueling Texas heat. This usually meant peppers of all varieties, a potato or two, and maybe something from the onion/garlic family. I know tomatoes are said to do well in our summers, but I don’t like eating tomatoes. Of course, when I can manage to irrigate them properly, I’m always growing herbs…I tend to have a lot of success growing warm season herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and basils.

With the state of the world in 2020, I’ve had the opportunity to work from home and sharpen my growing skills. I’m happy to report that mostly everything I’ve grown from seed this year has survived with the attention given them. I have lost very little in terms of new and existing outdoor/landscape plants as well.

With achievement under my belt, I’ve set out to grow some cole crops (vegetables I’ve always wanted to grow and eat) starting the fall/winter season. I anticipate starting in the cooler climate will guarantee me some vegetable harvests by next year, especially growing broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and Asian cabbages.

I’ve done my research by this list of resources to help plan with vegetable growing in my zone for this season.

Seed/Plant Local Resources:

Online seed/plant companies:

Blogs and channels I follow:

I recently learned of a work perk offered for free through my job. I recently signed up for online courses with Start Organic. I’ve been attending webinars hosted by the Start Organic team to learn about urban organic vegetable gardening. If your workplace/company offers this educational course to its employees, it’s well worth participating in if you’re interested in learning to start organic gardening.

DIY Stock Tank Gardens Part 1

If you haven’t checked out my IG feed, I posted some pictures of my stock tank garden beds.

These took a couple weeks to build and assemble. I purchased the stock tanks on sale at Tractor Supply Company. I originally wanted to go with the 2×4 tanks, but the size and sale price of 2×6 tanks made them too attractive to pass up. Of course, their size meant we had to rent a truck to haul them home. Luckily, we still had other yard projects that required the rent-a-truck to transport supplies.

Due to their size, I knew these tanks had to be mobile. Especially when filled with soil and water, they’d be a challenge to move around on my patio. I purchased 3/8 carriage bolts, heavy duty casters off Amazon and some waterproof stain. The stain was to seal the lumber on which the casters would be mounted. Finally I had to wait a week to get in an order of 5/16 galvanized threaded bolts, washers and hex nuts…because none of the local home improvement shops had sufficient quantities in stock to buy.

While I waited for the hardware to arrive, I drilled drainage holes in the bottom of the tanks. This required some titanium bits and some wrist strength, as drilling into steel can cause the drill to torque. I then marked out the area where the casters would be mounted. I was banking that 2 pieces of lumber would be enough to support these tanks upright.

I then secured the lumber to stock tanks using 3/8 carriage bolts, washers and hex nuts. Once the 5/16 hardware arrived, I was then able to drill and secure the casters to the lumber.

I then sealed the lumber and the inside of the stock tanks with silicone to prevent water seeping into or leaking into wood. It’s important to have the lumber last as long as possible since I depend on these supports to move these tanks around the yard and patio.

Once everything was drilled and sealed into place, it was time to get the tanks onto the casters and filled.

I lined the bottom with leftover landscape fabric then threw in 2 bags of lawn trimmings and cuttings. Afterwards, I layered in organic raised bed soil, compost, vermiculite, peat moss and perlite, adjusting as needed to get proper drainage. It’s quite an upper body workout to till and turn the soil media,

Sprinkled in some Espoma Organic Garden-Tone fertilizer then it’s off to planting veggies! By the way, this seeding square is awesome for spacing out new plants!

 

Seeding square–nifty!

I had quite a number of dill, kale, lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower starts, along with some lettuce seedlings I began indoors. In between the rows, I also stuck some garlic cloves, which took no time to sprout. Unfortunately I have way too many plants to fit in one of these tanks, if I stuck to the square-foot gardening method.

With one bed planted, I realized my new starts needed a little more sun. So I moved them to the east side of the pergola. Even with casters, the tank was almost too heavy to move on my own! I’d like to get more of these stock tanks, but size and mobility are definitely going to be deciding factors…likely I’d go with the smaller tanks next time.

Stay tuned for stock tank #2 details!